MS Risk Blog

Is violence against women hampering Albania’s accession to the European Union?

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Already in the first month of 2022 Albania has lost two women to violent crimes. This trend is not abnormal for the Balkan country whose population is an even 50-50 split between men and women. Last year a woman was killed on average every three weeks with thousands more reporting assaults, stalking and other forms of abusive behaviour to the police. In 2020, 12 cases of domestic violence were reported every day, but the police only prosecuted 13% of the cases, and no data is available for how many were convicted.

A recent UN survey revealed that a third of Albanian women feel unsafe in their own homes because of the presence of domestic violence. 53% said they had experienced some form of domestic violence and 80% suggested that domestic violence has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, Albania saw a 13% increase in murders, with almost a third of those murders being perpetrated by their partner, ex-partner, or a family member. In most cases, victims had already been granted protection from the police, such as taking out restraining orders against the offender.

Albania’s patriarchal society maintains strict gender roles, forcing many women to be dependent on their husbands or fathers. Property is traditionally registered and inherited through husbands or their family’s name, and social infractions are policed by an honour-and-shame system where men are allowed to ‘deal’ with their women’s behaviour.

In a UN report from 2019, more than half of Albanian women believed that they should tolerate some violence to keep their family together. This along with fear means that a huge number of violent cases against women go unreported.

Albania first applied to join the EU in April 2009, then in 2014 Albania was granted candidate status. The EU gave Albania various pre-conditions that, if met, would allow for the talks to start for the accession to the EU.  These pre-conditions include reforms for the justice system, opening trials for corrupt judges and the respect of human rights.

The EU Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs released a study relating to violence against women in which it states that every country in the EU must follow a provided framework for preventing femicide. Included in this is the ‘Due Diligence Principle’, in Article 5 of the Convention, in which an obligation is placed on State Parties to organise their response to all forms of violence covered in the Convention. The European Court of Human Rights must see that the State establishes a positive obligation to protect the right to life. The positive obligation requires the State to do due diligence in protecting an individual whose life is at risk. Failure to do so incurs State responsibility.

If the state had any prior knowledge of a woman’s exposure to violence, it is the State’s obligation to employ preventative measures to ensure the right to life.

Already in one month of 2022 we have seen two women killed by men. If the trend stays the same, then by December the lives of 22 more women will be lost taking the total to 24. In the previous year there were 20 female murders but with 12 cases of domestic violence a day the potential for that number to increase is huge. This, along with the fact that Albania has a dwindling birth rate and high emigration levels means that Albania must find a way to protect women or the country will continue to struggle both domestically and internationally.

Between 2010-2019, more than 193,000 Albanian’s applied for asylum in the EU. The reasons are many but key among them are better employment opportunities, including opportunities for women, as well as increased security for women. Unemployment plays a big factor in emigration from Albania and with men being the primary earners we can see that it correlates with domestic violence.

If Albania is to successfully join the EU, the government must address these problems. It must provide better legislation to the safety of women. This can be done by reforming a society where men control a woman’s life, money, and shelter. The government must provide greater employment opportunities for women so that the reliance of women on men is lessened and women can have greater independence. Policing of domestic violence must be improved and this comes with the ability to trust the police will enforce preventative measures when complaints and restraining orders have been made.

Albania seems closer than ever to joining the European Union and yet half of its population cannot live without the overarching control of male influences. It cannot guarantee the protection of women and girls and it cannot provide an adequate platform from which violence can be avoided. All of which must be addressed before becoming a member of the EU.